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Friday February 28th

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 5 - Matthias Giesen (organ) rec. 2018 GRAMOLA 99169 [84:40] [JWe] Full marks to all concerned for this remarkable recording.

Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) String Quartets Nos 4-6 - Pleyel Qt Köln rec. 2014 CPO 555240-2 [51.06] [CRa] Well-recorded, amiable early works from a composer whose true vocation was opera.

Tibor HARSÁNYI (1898-1954) Complete Piano Works 1 - Giorgio Koukl (piano) rec. 2019 GRAND PIANO GP806 [70:13] [SA] Harsányi will emerge from obscurity into the light of deserved recognition, if Koukl has anything to do with it.

Raul KOCZALSKI (1885-1948) Piano Concertos Nos 5 & 6 - Joanna Ławrynowicz (piano) Lublin PO/Wojciech Rodek rec. 2019 ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0503 [60:28] [JW] Koczalski’s concertos are curious byways in Polish musical history that occasionally offer strangely compelling intimacies.

Ennio MORRICONE (b.1928) Once Upon a Time - Enea Leone (guitar) rec. 2019 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95855 [63:12] [JW] Morricone meets the guitar in some very enjoyable arrangements.

Henry PURCELL (1659–1695) One Charming Night - David Hansen (countertenor) Oslo Circles rec. 2018 SIMAX CLASSICS PSC1367 [57:58] [GF] Excellent playing and singing, an interesting programme with several goodies, and a recording from the top drawer.

Poul RUDERS (b. 1949) Piano Concerto No. 3, Cembal d’amore, Kafkapriccio - Anne-Marie McDermott (piano) Odense SO/Benjamin Shwartz, Andreas Delfs rec. 2016/18 BRIDGE 9531 [59:34] [SB] Enjoyable though perhaps not essential works by the leading Danish composer.

Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970) Visions - Nino Gvetadze (piano) rec. 2019 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72819 [63:38] [JF] A splendid introduction to Scott’s large catalogue of piano music.  

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Dona Nobis Pacem, Five Mystical Songs - Edith Wiens (soprano) Brian Rayner-Cook (baritone) London Philharmonic Ch & O/Bryden Thomson rec. 1988 CHANDOS CHAN8590 [56:36] [JQ] Two of Vaughan Williams’ finest vocal works in excellent performances.

Reine Gianoli (piano) Recitals in France 1962-1966 MELOCLASSIC MC1044 [78:36 + 79:15] [SG] Refined pianism, worthy of your attention.

Thursday February 27th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Concertos for Organ and Strings - Les Muffatti/Bart Jacobs (organ) rec. 2018 RAMÉE RAM1804 [79:59] [JV] A model of creative programming and music-making.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Complete Piano Trios Vol. 4 - Van Baerle Trio rec. 2018/19 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72782 SACD [78:50] [DC] A fine conclusion to a highly desirable set.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) The Final Piano Pieces - Stephen Hough (piano) rec. 2014/18 HYPERION CDA68116 [69:08] [RWe] Now the top modern recommendation.

Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759) Brockes-Passion - Concerto Copenhagen/Lars Ulrik Mortensen rec. 2019 CPO 555286-2 SACD [79:20 + 78:00] [ST] Warmly recommended to diversify your Eastertide listening.

Mihkel LÜDIG (1880-1958) Overture-Fantasies, Midsummer Night Artur LEMBA (1885-1963) Piano Concerto No. 1 Artur KAPP (1878-1952) The Last Confession, Symphony No. 4 - Triin Ruubel (violin), Mihkel Poll (piano), Estonian Ntl SO/Neeme Järvi rec. 2017-2018 CHANDOS CHAN20150 [73:23] [JW] Enjoyable enough, but lacking the final level of inspiration.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Winterreise - Voyager Quartet rec. 2019 SOLO MUSICA SM335 [50:26] [GF] A transcription that is both attractive and perspective-building.

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Symphonies Nos 4 & 6 - Hallé/Sir Mark Elder rec. 2018/2019 HALLÉ CDHLL7553 [70:03] [JQ] Sir Mark Elder’s Sibelius cycle has ended on a high note.

Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896) Hamlet - Stéphane Degout (baritone) Sabine Devieilhe (soprano) Les éléments, O des Champs-Elysées/Louis Langrée rec. 2018 NAXOS Blu-ray NBD0103V [171 mins] [MP] A virtually perfect musical performance of Thomas’s grand opera in true French style, but a disappointing staging.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Aida - Leontyne Price (soprano) Jon Vickers (tenor) Rome Opera Ch & O/Sir Georg Solti rec. 1961 ALTO ALC2031 [79.17 + 72.36] [PCG] A more traditional performance than the contemporary Karajan, but the cast is often superior and the recording vivid if forward and brassy.

English Piano Trios Trio Anima Mundi rec. 2017 DIVINE ART DDA 25158 [75:35] [MC] Première recordings of five works full of interest, splendidly played and recorded, with the Waldo Warner a particular highlight.

Wednesday February 26th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Well-Tempered Consort I - Phantasm rec. 2019 LINN RECORDS CKD618 [66:55] [DC] A delight throughout.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Violin Concerto; Septet; Variations on Folk Songs - Enrico Pace (piano), Bavarian RSO/Leonidas Kavakos (violin) rec. 2019 SONY CLASSICAL 19075929882 [49:27 + 64:19] [ST] A varied selection of repertoire, played with great style and consistently enjoyable musicianship.

Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713) & Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770) Sonatas - Albert Spalding (violin), Anthony Kooiker (piano) rec. 1951 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1680 [45:51] [JW] This transfer is crystal clear and pure – just like Spalding’s playing.

Philip GLASS (b. 1937) Violin Concerto No. 2; Violin Sonata - Piotr Pławner (violin), Annika Guy (synthesizer), Gerardo Vila (piano), Berner Kammerorchester/Philippe Bach rec. 2018 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559865 [62:27] [RC] Masterly and appealing music.

Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Rodrigo – Fflur Wyn (soprano) Jorge Navarro Colorado (tenor) Festspiel O/Laurence Cummings rec. 2019 ACCENT ACC26412 [3 CDs: 168:21] [MP] There is much to admire here in a more complete version and well executed live recording.

Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1420-1497) Complete Songs Vol. 1 - Blue Heron/Scott Metcalfe rec. 2018 BLUE HERON BHCD1010 [76.49] [GH] All quite brilliantly done and completed by a first-class recording.

Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) La Cenerentola - Serena Malfi (mezzo-soprano), Juan Francisco Gatell (tenor), Vito Priante (bass), Ch & O Teatro dell’Opera, Rome/Alejo Pérez rec. 2016 C MAJOR 752408 DVD [2 discs: 162 mins] [RJF] Other stagings represent Rossini’s comic creation far better than this overcrowded, gimmick-ridden effort.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Symphonies Nos 3 & 4, Saraband ‘Helen’ - Elizabeth Watts (soprano) David Butt Philip (tenor) BBC SO & Ch/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68280 [80:57] [JQ] A strong addition to Martyn Brabbins’ VW cycle containing fine performances of the two symphonies.

Renata Johnson-Wojtowicz (soprano) Ah! Mia vita! - Magdalena Dobrowolska (soprano), Aleksandra Kalicka (mezzo) Lviv Ntl PSO/Serhij Chorowec DUX 1630 [42:53] [GF] Johnson-Wojtowicz has a beautiful and well-schooled voice, but such a short running time and so many alternatives make this uncompetitive.

Singing Oboe Works by Hovland, Habbestad & Kvandal - Trygve Aarvik (oboe) Norwegian Radio O/Ingvar Bergby rec. 2018 LAWO CLASSICS LWC1186 [66:29] [RHa] Three contrasting Norwegian concertante works for oboe; Kvandal’s concerto is especially fine.

Tuesday February 25th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Complete Well-Tempered Clavier - George Lepauw (piano) rec. 2017 ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100107 [5 CDs: 274:35] [SG] This production has been a true labour of love for everyone involved.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies No. 1 & 5 - Budapest Festival O/Iván Fischer rec. 2017 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA39719 SACD [61:47] [MG] Stylishly played with a refreshing emphasis on Beethoven’s elegance and finesse, albeit that his boisterous side is a little understated.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Messe Solennelle - Adriana Gonzalez (soprano) Julien Behr (tenor) Andreas Wolf (bass) Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet rec. 2019 ALPHA 564 [51:19] [JQ] An important and fascinating, if uneven, early Berlioz score receives exceptional advocacy from Hervé Niquet.

Richard BLACKFORD (b. 1954) Pietŕ, Canticle of Winter - Jennifer Johnston (mezzo) Stephen Gadd (baritone) Amy Dickson (soprano saxophone) Bournemouth SO & Ch/Gavin Carr rec. 2019 NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6396 [47.30] [PCG] Music of high quality in performances to match.

Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987) For Bunita Marcus - Aki Takahashi (piano) rec. 2007 MODE 314 [74:18] [DC] Overdue release of something that delivers a magical connection with the composer.

Lars Petter HAGEN (b. 1975) Harmonium Repertoire - Cikada/Christian Eggen rec. 2019 LAWO CLASSICS LWC1190 [48:21] [RHa] The quietness of this extraordinary disc and its spare means of production are in completely inverse proportion to its impact.

Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978) Chamber Music - Mariam Kharatyan (piano), Adam Grüchot (violin), Leonardo Sesenna (cello), Stig Nordhagen (clarinet) rec. 2018 SIMAX PSC1373 [58:36] [GF] Deeply committed performances.

Henri LITOLFF (1818-1891) Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2; Violin Sonata - Leonore Piano Trio rec. 2019 HYPERION CDA68305 [70:00] [BW]  Not an essential purchase, but an appealing one, especially for lovers of romantic piano music.

Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Der Freischütz - Lise Davidsen (soprano) Andreas Schager (tenor) MDR Leipzig Radio Ch, Frankfurt SO/Marek Janowski rec. 2018 PENTATONE PTC5186788 SACD [77:01+38:51] [SB] An excellent performance and a strong contender if you can cope with a narration instead of the dialogue.

Eugene Ormandy (conductor) The Philadelphia Orchestra: The Early Years Vol. 1 rec. 1936-42 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC578 [66:34 + 69:26] [JW] A rousing start to this series.

Monday February 24th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Concerti for Two Harpsichords - Emmanuel Frankenberg (harpsichord), Ensemble Masques/Olivier Fortin (harpsichord) rec. 2018 rec. 2018 ALPHA CLASSICS 572 [59:46] [DC] Excellent performances and a fine recording.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No. 9 - Bavarian RSO & Ch/Bernard Haitink rec. 2019 BR KLASSIK 900180 [71:58] [WH] A big, impressive performance of the Ninth which Haitink’s admirers will not want to miss.

Auguste DUPONT (1827-1890) Piano Concerto No. 3 Peter BENOIT (1834-1901) Symphonic poem for piano and orchestra - St Gallen SO/Howard Shelley (piano) rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68264 [62:49] [PRB] Very entertaining.

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) & Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801) Concertos - Ana de la Vega (flute), Ramón Ortega Quero (oboe), Trondheim Soloists rec. 2019 PENTATONE PTC5186823 [64:38] [MW] Interesting works with two fine soloists, but the accompaniment needed more loving care.

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Piano Sonata No.1, Moments Musicaux, Études-Tableaux - Alfonso Soldano (piano) rec. 2019 DIVINE ART DDA25155 [79:56] [JF] Soldano’s playing left me both impressed and amazed.

Camille SAINT-SAЁNS (1835-1921) Piano Concertos Nos 3 & 5, Rhapsodie d’Auvergne, Allegro appassionato - Louis Lortie (piano) BBC Philharmonic/Edward Gardner rec. 2018/19 CHANDOS CHAN20038 [66.51] [CRa] An exciting and dramatic record of under-appreciated music, but there are now many competitors.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Winterreise - Mathias Hedegaard (tenor) Tove Lřnskov (piano) rec. 2018 DANACORD DACOCD865 [75:45] [GF] An honest and deeply felt reading.

Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) String Quartet Nos 1, 2 & 6 - Dante Quartet rec. 2019 SOMM RECORDINGS SOMMCD0607 [79:17] [JW] The cycle of Stanford’s Quartets has now been completed in excellent style.

Francesco Paolo TOSTI (1846-1916) Romanza da Salotto Italiana - Stanisław Daniel Kotliński (baritone) Marco Balderi (piano) rec. 2018 DUX 1482 [77:00] [RMas] Sensitive performances of Italian parlor songs.

Swing A Benny Goodman Story - Pierre Genisson (clarinet) BBC Concert O/Keith Lockhart rec. 2018 APARTÉ AP218 [54:50] [MC] Genisson is on unerringly fine form.

Other reviews
Beethoven: The Man Revealed by John Suchet publ. 2020 Elliott and Thompson [RMo] A thoroughly readable, digestible and entertaining biography.

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